Jenna Penielle Lyons
Dr. Robert Browning
March 18, 2013
Painting Ourselves into Forever:
Response to and synthesis of Percy Shelley, A Defense of Poetry and
Osho, From Death to Deathlessness
I think at this point it has become acceptable to compare the ideas of English Romantic poet Percy Shelley to the ideas of Indian spiritual teacher Osho. Drawing parallels between Shelley and Osho helps me to appreciate Shelley more—something I thought would never happen in my career as a scholar of English Literature. Shelley writes that “[i]n the youth of the world, men dance and sing and imitate natural objects, observing in these actions, as in all others, a certain rhythm or order” (539). This rhythm—the order—that Shelley speaks of is the very essence of that which makes people feel…alive. Recreating this rhythm is the essence of mimesis, and though Platonists and Aristotelians would argue that art is imitation and that is corrupt and noble, respectively, Shelley and Osho both argue that any pleasurable pursuit of the artistic—mimetic or otherwise—is honorable.
To feel pleasure in living is something that comes so naturally when people are successful or in love, but is so hard to attain when it doesn’t come naturally—when people experience hardship, loneliness, or deception. However, “[t]hose in whom it [the order of highest delight] exists in excess are poets, in the most universal sense of the word; and the pleasure resulting from the manner in which they express the influence of society or nature upon their own minds, communicates itself to others, and gathers a sort of reduplication from that community” (539). Here, Shelley asserts that the very source of happiness generates within the arts and spreads to the community participating in their dialogues. Escapist or not, the creation of art creates a reality that is nearest to our dreams and wishes.
Osho, to connect to Shelley, asserts that “[o]nly one percent of people know a little bit deeper. Poets, painters, musicians, dancers, singers have a sensitivity that they can feel beyond the body. They can feel the beauties of the mind, the sensitivities of the heart, because they live on that plane themselves” (Osho, From Death to Deathlessness, Talk #17). So, this community of artists—of people who can create—crafts things for others to enjoy. These works of art apply thematically to hardships that others are experiencing; in identifying with these works, people find solace in the arts. Or, artists create things that are simply beautiful or aesthetically pleasing. In this way, artists channel familiar feelings such as love, honesty, or laughter and place them into a dance, a song, a piece of paper, or a canvas.
Whether or not one subscribes to Romanticism or mysticism is insignificant. I argue that people are forced to subscribe to one of two options: They can be happy and take advantage of their lives and the time within it, or they can be miserable and ignore the gaieties that are possible within every moment. They can delight in each other and in whatever form of art they create individually or collectively, or they can act singularly and wallow in the weight of the world. In defense of poetry, I argue that in the imaginative world, I have the opportunity to live, love, and create for an eternity.